Gun Runner ‘A Little Faster Horse’ In 2017, Works ‘Brilliantly’ For Whitney

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney's Gun Runner turned in his penultimate work Sunday morning for the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney on August 5, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.01 over the main track at Saratoga Race Course.

With regular jockey Florent Geroux aboard, Gun Runner was the fastest of 16 at the distance. NYRA clockers caught the 4-year-old Candy Ride colt in company through a quarter-mile in 24 1/5 seconds, three-eighths in 36 1/5, and a half in 48. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 and out seven in 1:26 1/5.

“He looked very good working this morning,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. “He's trained brilliantly all year long and it looked like more of the same to me. Florent had him nice and relaxed off [his workmate] early and he took over around the turn and finished through the wire really well.”

The move was the fourth local breeze for Gun Runner, who arrived at the Spa following his seven-length victory in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on June 17 at Churchill Downs, his first race since finishing second to Arrogate in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March.

The Whitney is a Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” race, which awards the winner an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall at Del Mar.

As a 3-year-old, the chestnut colt was a noticeable contender on the 2016 Triple Crown trail, tallying back-to-back Grade 2 wins in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds before finishing third to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. Gun Runner hasn't finished worse than third in seven starts following his troubled fifth-place effort in last year's Grade 1 Haskell, including his first Grade 1 victory in the Clark Handicap last November, where he bested a field of older horses with a 2 ¾-length victory to close out his sophomore campaign.

“He was a very nice horse as a 3-year-old and reached a different level this year and hopefully it'll continue,” said Asmussen. “Obviously, we have very big plans for him and we were very happy to see him win the Foster for his first race off the layoff.

“We've always been extremely high on him,” he added. “Derby week, we thought we had a pretty good chance of winning the Derby. Horses of that quality are very special to begin with and I thought he ran some solid races last year. He did achieve his first Grade 1 win in the Clark last year, and I do think that with a little break and some spacing this year, he's just a little faster horse.”

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